Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Image from Sky scraper Life

Lagos is my city: my birthplace and my home-town.  It is filled with unique stories and each dweller takes away a unique point-of-view. For a start, my stories begin differently from my father’s; who grew up in a very different Lagos—the ones you see in retro photographs with figures in them bearing so much composure you couldn't help wondering if they were statues.

My father’s Lagos begins with stories of descendants trailing new life from Brazil to Sierra Leone to Lome to Cotonou and finally Lagos in the 18th century and then colonialists. In the article “Does Amalgamation work” published in the Sept 1965 edition of Ebony Magazine, the writer writes that: “Not all freedmen elected to stay in their adopted land, however. By 1878 some 6, 000 had returned to Africa. Today thousands of Brazilian repatriates live in West African, including the family of Sylvanus Olympio, late president of Togo.” My great-great-grandfather was among the repatriates who came back to Africa in search of a home.

My mother told me of a visit to Olympio’s family home when she travelled with my father and older brothers to Lome, Togo. (I was too young to make the trip and was left with my grandmother). Olympio's family, the Verissimos, and several others travelled down to Africa. Oral history passed down says that my great-grandfather left his father in Lome and moved on sea, to settle in Badagry, before he found his way to Lagos Island, joining other members of his families dotted across villages in West Africa. He became a member of the Brazilian Quarters, which covers the Tinubu, Igbosere, Obalende, Araromi, Onikan, TBS etc., area of Lagos.

Yesterday, I stood on a side walk of a street in Ikeja—which is almost the heart of the metropolis—and I imagined the lives of the many people in the crowd whose stories are woven into more stories like mine, those descendants from many places who have mingled with the first settlers—the Aworis—to own Lagos. Those who have made today’s Lagos what it is, those whose connection were made with a travel to find root in a place, those who today, owe everything to the city and those that the city have offered everything.  Sincerely, it is difficult to live in Lagos and not imagine: to imagine just anything.

My own story...I will tell tomorrow as a member of a discussion panel on Lagos and Johannesburg. The publicity for the events says:


The cities of LAGOS and JOHANNESBURG are the undoubted commercial and cultural capitals of their respective countries, and of Sub-Saharan Africa. Now four writers active in one or the other of the two cities hold conversation on how life in the cities affects and is reflected their works. 

Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) asks you to join us as Nigeria’s TONI KAN and JUMOKE VERISSIMO and South Africa’s SIPHIWO MAHALA and KGEBETLI MOELE read from their works and discuss as part of the Nigeria-South Africa Week. Anwuli Ojogwu will moderate the conversation.
Venue: Kongi's Harvest, Freedom Park, Lagos Island
Time: 5pm to 8pm Nigerian time

See you tomorrow!

Jo’burg is the city I would have visited early this year, except that the South African High Commission decided my Bank Account could not have been mine—if you think it is laden such a bountiful sum, I’m quick to say that I’m still not rich enough for introspection, but then, these diplomats understand these things better.

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